Days Of Future Past
I didn't stop writing when I went away last week for my first SFX Weekender, a huge gathering of fans of science-fiction TV series and films, and science-fiction in print. This was at Prestatyn, a small resort town in the north-west corner of Wales; specifically, at the Pontins holiday camp. It wasn't for the faint-hearted. There were at least 4000 fans in attendance, stretching the fairly basic facilities to near but not quite breaking point, forming Soviet-style queues for autographs and food, filling the huge arena where the main, media-related events were held, providing a very good showing at the panels where authors did their stuff. The median age seemed to be well below that at more traditional SF conventions, and the level of enthusiasm and energy was constantly high. There were previews of films, and writers of all kinds did their best to sell their new stuff (and there were some serious queues to get autographed books), but what struck me was a large part of that enthusiasm and energy was aimed at the past. At actors from TV shows long since ended, and films made before a good percentage of the attendees were born. It's something that's also evident at more traditional conventions, too. And inevitable, I suppose, given that most afficiendos are exposed at an early age, and are indelibly printed with the stuff they loved first. Like everything else, the future is never what it once was.
What there wasn't, as someone else has pointed out, was some kind of chill-out space that might have provided a respite from the noise and crowds. Like the other authors, my timetable wasn't exactly crowded with events, and I spent a lot of time talking with old and new friends. It would have been nice to have had a space for conversation that wasn't a hundred-foot-long bar (there was a pub, but it was as crowded as everywhere else). Actually, there was a good quiet space, but it was off-site, at the hotel where I was staying - I decided to opt out of the complete Pontins experience. There was also a fantastically long and almost entirely deserted beach, butressed with impressive concrete fortifications to prevent erosion. A good place to walk and think - so good I stayed on an extra day, and missed the inevitable queues for coaches that replaced the railway service on Sunday, after the whole thing ended.